Several companies offer commercial software for performing an arc flash analysis. Programs range from full-service tools bundled with electrical design and safety suites, such as ESA's EasyPower, ETAP or SKM's PowerTools, to free arc flash calculators such as the Duke Power Heat Flux Calculator offered on this website or the Littelfuse Arc-Flash Calculator. Specific software capabilities vary widely.
It is important to know the assumptions a program makes in performing its calculations. Many programs, especially web-based calculators and other free software, use algorithms that are suitable only for certain situations. For instance, the Duke Power calculator assumes a single-phase or unbalanced fault, rather than a three-phase fault. Other software may perform accurately for systems operating within certain voltages. Few free calculators offer a choice of IEEE or NFPA calculation methods.
More sophisticated arc flash software overcomes many of these limitations, as well as providing added benefits such as scenario management or integration with other electrical design tasks such as short-circuit analysis, one-line diagram development, and device coordination studies. In addition, many of these programs integrate seamlessly with label-printing devices such as the DuraLabel PRO to provide simple methods for assessing and marking arc flash hazards. If you have a DuraLabel 7000 or a DuraLabel 9000, you can print huge, highly visible arc flash signs with ease.
Any computer program is limited by the quality of the information fed to it. Accurate and thorough data-gathering, such as field verification of breaker settings and obtaining complete electric utility reports, are a necessary prerequisite for use of arc flash software. No software tool is a replacement for professional electrical engineering expertise and careful study--but it can be an invaluable aid in assessing and preventing arc flash incidents.